Food: American Hamburgers in Taiwan

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Photos by MJ Klein & Hui-chen Meals featured: Grilled homestyle hamburgers; teppanyaki.

UPDATE: November 2, 2007: Here is a photo of the bread type that I talk about in this article. Notice that there are seven slices:

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The other evening I told Hui-chen that I felt like eating hamburgers for dinner. Funny, but she rarely asks me if I want to eat hamburgers, which is strange considering that a full-blown Taiwanese stereotype about Americans is that we only eat hamburgers. I’ve been to places with new Taiwanese friends who in all honesty, apologized to me because there were no hamburgers available on the menu where we were eating! Other times I have had Taiwanese friends celebrate my return to Taiwan by going to McDonald’s and bringing back bags of their inedible garbage, thinking that I would be pleased with their selection of American food (I pretended to be). I didn’t eat that crap in the US, so why would I eat it here?

Forget about McDonald’s! On this occasion, I decided to show Hui-chen how we would make hamburgers at home when I lived in New Hampshire. Hui-chen went to the store and procured some ingredients (while I got the grill going) and then I combined them in a bowl as shown here:

  1. 1/3 ground beef
  2. 2/3 ground pork
  3. Chopped garlic (a ton)
  4. 1/2 onion, diced
  5. Black pepper to taste
  6. Soy sauce

The only thing left to do now is to grill them.


While the grill was still heating up, Hui-chen grilled a few Chinese sausages because these really do come out better when the heat is low. They burn easily.

In the meantime I decided to try taking a few shots in near-total darkness using my Nikon SB-800 flash on the D80.


This is the monstrosity of a building that’s across the street from us. I was astonished at how well the SB-800 lit up the scene!

That gave me confidence to try something even more ambitious:


Wow, hard to believe but even this shot is usable! So now I really wanna see what this thing can do, so, I shot this scene:


Here is what happened: Directly over the word “here” at the beginning of this sentence is part of my house reflecting the full power of the flash back. Naturally, that part is totally washed out. Next is the house across the street on the left side. Then further out you can see that the light from the flash illuminated the windows on the buildings on the next block! Notice the car reflectors too. Even though the distant portion of the shot is not usable, I’m officially impressed!

So, I wonder if I could take any useful photos at night in near-total darkness from the 4th floor balcony? I did some street level zoomed shots using the Sigma lens:


This shot is pretty convincing evidence that I could successfully photograph something on the street at night using my flash. The exif data is available for all these photos by clicking on them and selecting the link from the flickr photo page.

So now that I’m done playing around, let’s get back to the burger business!


Notice any difference in these 2 hamburgers? I made the one on the left. Hui-chen made the one on the right.

One thing that I need to explain about Taiwan is about our weird sliced bread. Not only do you have to ask for “toast” and you will actually see “sliced toast” on the bread packaging (no one told Taiwanese that the bread must be toasted in order for it to be called “toast”) but the size is weird too. It’s like an A3 sized piece or something. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean:[eminimall]


This is one of my American sized burgers on the bread. See how much bigger the bread is? It’s like the bread grew in the middle. As far as I can tell, not many people use sliced bread to make sandwiches here, which explains both the size and the name “toast.” The bread is so large that a single PB&J usually wipes out my appetite. When I ate this hamburger, it took about 5 minutes to get down to the meat!


But, it was well worth it!

Hui-chen explained to me that her hamburger was superior because:


Given the small size of the meat patty and the large size of the bread, she could make a sandwich out of a single piece of bread! Suddenly, I realized why these bread packages have odd numbers of slices. It’s so weird to by 7 slices of bread but they are not used in pairs, apparently.


Just look at this face!


Naturally, I ignored that smug look and went on making big burgers and using 2 large pieces of bread while she made her bread efficient small burgers….

So the next day Hui-chen took the leftover meat and used it in her homestyle teppanyaki:


Looks good, doesn’t it?


Here is a closeup. We have the meatballs made from the hamburger concoction on the bottom of the photo, then counter-clockwise from that, we see the white chicken meat, followed by pork (touched by the tongs).


Now, this is what the dish looked like after the vegetables and tofu have been added and cooked. Looks great, doesn’t it?


And this is the setup in our living room. We ate teppanyaki over rice, while watching CSI and Numb3rs on AXN. Life is hard in Taiwan.

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11 comments

  1. Yeah, Life is hard my friend!

    One question how did you keep the meat together. whenever I make burgers they fall apart. Did you just let it sit for a few hours?

    I spent yesterday removing paint from my BBQ by using paint remover and then sanding and it was spotless after giving it a full wash.

    I then covered it in oil and burnt it out and now it looks great. I have photos to post of the job hopefull over the next few days.

    Would have been easier doing it this way the first time!!

    I haven’t had a burger for … I can’t remember. They are on the menu next week. I hope they look as good as yours MJ.

    The leftover looked bloody tasty. You are cruel. It’s 11.46pm here 🙂
    Brunty

    Jason Brunt’s last blog post..Thailand. Rock pools, swimming and a monk.

  2. Jason, normally i don’t do anything to the meat to hold it together because i don’t add so much liquid that it’s a problem. but if the meat starts falling apart you can add some flour to the mix and that should do it.

    i am looking forward to your photo-documentation of the grill finishing, and of course cooking burgers on it! you can thank my wife for the cruelty of the teppanyaki! that was her idea, totally!

    Sandy, yes Taiwan does have hamburger buns but you have to go to a supermarket to get them. Hui-chen said that she did look but couldn’t find any when she went to the supermarket, so we just used the “toast” bread. in the US, those buns are available in nearly every convenience store but not here!

    Colby, i’m sure that someday you will!

  3. Jason, the secret to keeping the meat together is to start with fine ground meat, stirring it until becomes like glue, in Chinese we said “[sorry the Chinese won’t display properly]”, and you would feel the meat is sticky and it won’t fall apart any more. Or after stirring, you can let it sit in the ice box for awhile, it helps also.

  4. Gack. I just got home from a hard workout and checked in with you guys and this is what I have to deal with when all I’ve got is avocado and cheese for lunch! You two are killing me! The burgers look terrific.

    John is famous around his part of Iowa for his burgers. We also have a Costco membership. Bulk ground beef and bulk hamburger buns… we never buy the buns because we just can’t get through that many burgers. I also make killer potato spuds. Burger blogger bonanza!!!! What do you say?

    Carrie’s last blog post..Kokeshi Dolls of Japan

  5. Carrie, Hui-chen and I say “Party Time!”

    hey i just had an idea…. how about a Blogger Burger Cookoff? we could make it open to anyone to attend, and our readers could be the judges! that could be really fun!

    now you got me wanting to try John’s burgers! A Blogger Burger Cookoff (or a cookout) would be a great way to try everyone’s recipes!

  6. Carrie, Hui-chen and i were discussing this very topic yesterday. we were shopping and she got more meat for another batch of home cooked burgers (meat went right into the freezer). this topic is the only article where Hui-chen has actually personally replied to a comment! she really liked making them, and eating them even more!

    so, now we have to figure out where we could do a burger cook off. also, whether or not it should be open to the public….. hmmmm lemme think about that and i’ll come up with a first draft proposal! i might know a place….

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